28 March 2013

Metal Mickey - Lollipop Lollipop/ Eugene (The Hollywood Monster Movie Fiend)





















Label: EMI
Year of Release: 1978

Guilty confession time. As a small child, I was absolutely obsessed with Metal Mickey.  A Mickey Dolenz produced and directed television situation comedy pitched squarely at children, it appealed to my boyish fascination with robots (who I believed would be doing all the housework for us in a matter of a few years) and... I don't know what else, really.  I don't know for the pure and simple reason that having since seen some episodes as an adult, I'm gobsmacked by how awful it actually is.  No wonder that when I once revealed my childhood obsession to some friends in a pub (I favoured Metal Mickey stickers on my lunchbox over Star Wars ones any day of the week, screw all that Jedi bullshit) they fell around laughing.

In retrospect, "Metal Mickey" was a messy show consisting of scenery-chewing actors who looked as if they'd rather be somewhere else, and looks like a bizarre Vic Reeves or Harry Hill parody of eighties television these days.  It's also been observed by many commentators that the programme suffered from the insurmountable obstacle of metallic droid voices not being the best at delivering killer comedic lines - dry sarcasm a la Marvin might have worked, but Mickey specialised in sharp witticisms, all delivered in a Stephen Hawking voicebox effect, hence jokes that might actually have been quite good tended to sound akin to bland data-readouts.  When the man about the house (played by Michael Stainton) asked why the droid called him "Bootface", speculating that it might be because he's "shiny and practical", he received the reply "No, it's because you're old, thick and in need of patching".  Not a bad line, especially for children hungry for a bit of authority-figure baiting rudeness, but it loses a lot when delivered in a Radiohead "Fitter Happier" voice.

Way before situation comedy beckoned, however, Mickey was a periodic character on the children's morning show "Saturday Banana", and some of his 45s - because there were quite a few of them, believe it or not - stem from this period.  They are what you'd expect them to be, namely cheaply recorded novelty discs with Mickey droning upfront, like Kraftwerk for the kindergarten set.  Unlike the other robot issuing discs at this point, Marvin the Paranoid Android (who actually charted, unlike MM), there's not too much attention to detail here, and there's a sense that the session folk involved were watching the studio clock.  Still, it's a curious reminder of one person's vision of the future.  Who ever thought that futuristic robots would be so boxy, clunky and mechanical sounding?

Irene Handl was good, though.

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